Tuesday, 7 February 2017

#BookGroup #TheSisters #ClaireDouglas

This week my Book Group met to discuss "The Sisters" by Claire Douglas.

The Sisters

When one sister dies, the other must go to desperate lengths to survive. Haunted by her twin sister's death, Abi is making a fresh start in Bath. But when she meets twins Bea and Ben, she is quickly drawn into their privileged and unsettling circle. 

When one sister lies, she must protect her secret at all costs. As Abi tries to keep up with the demands of her fickle friends, strange things start to happen - precious letters go missing and threatening messages are left in her room. Is this the work of the beautiful and capricious Bea? Or is Abi willing to go to any lengths to get attention? When the truth outs, will either sister survive?


"The Sisters" was published in April 2015 by Harper Collins. 

For my review of "The Sister" please click here

Questions for Book Group:

How effective do you find the dual narrative? Was there one character you felt more drawn to? Why?

This novel is very firmly located in Bath. How important is the setting in this book? Did the specific references make it more tangible to you or does it not matter?

There are some very specific cultural references in the story like “The White Company”, “Happy Mondays” and “Marc Jacobs”. Do they help or hinder your reading of the novel and your understanding of the characters?

Did your judgements, opinions and feelings towards the characters change at all during your reading of the novel? In what way? Do you think this is intentional?

What do you think about the relationship between Bea and Ben? How authentic did it feel to you?

What do you think about the presentation of friendship in the novel?

What do you think attracts Bea and Abi to each other as friends? What are the clues that tells us this relationship will be complicated from the beginning?

What do you think were the key themes in the book?

What did you make of the ending? How did affect your reading of the novel?

What question would you like to ask Claire Douglas about this book?

Our discussion of "The Sisters":

Firstly, everyone enjoyed the book and certainly had plenty to say about the lead characters! There was lots of discussion about exactly what people felt and exactly what people had understood by some of the story which highlights the level of ambiguity and intrigue in the novel! 

The group was a split over their reactions to the ending- which I won't talk about here in case of spoilers!! But some felt it was too much of a surprise, too much of a twist - particularly those who hadn't seen it coming - but others really loved the ambiguity, threat and new questions it posed. As Claire had asked us what we thought the ending meant, we discussed this at length! Ultimately we had a list of questions that we were begging the answer to - like what happened next to Abi and Bea? .....all I can reveal is that we didn't think it would end well! A few members of the group were very keen for Bea to have a happy ending where she 'saw sense' and for Abi to have a much more stable and grounded future - but we weren't sure that Claire was implying that was going to happen!!

Most of the discussion was about Abi and her unreliability as a narrator. Can we believe anything she said? How many lies has she told? How screwed up is she?! Is it grief or is it something more entrenched in her character? What exactly was her relationship with her twin like? I think the thing the group liked was that we were left wanting to know more about what might happen next and whether there was a change in Abi as she now seemed more in control. There was a lot of conversation about what motivated Abi and what her ultimate goal might be. 

We felt that the friendships in the book are not based on anything real. No one is who they say they are and the life they lead in the house is very unreal (in terms of the environment Bea has created - the attitudes and 'rules' rather than it not being convincing or believable!) We wondered about the backstories of Jodie and Nina as they were the only ones who seemed to have some concept of what it meant to be a friend! We also wondered what had happened in the house between the group of 'friends' before Abi arrived. 

There was quite a lot of chat about the cultural references and the firm location of Bath. Generally the feeling was that it would have worked just as well if the word "Bath" wasn't there. It seems people like the book to be rooted in truth but not too specific- believable but not literally named. But we also know that this is contentious and varies from reader to reader! 

One of our book group members has a twin brother so we had quite a lot of fun asking her about her relationship with her brother, being a twin and the deep, almost unexplainable bond between twins. She would like to clarify that her relationship with her brother has never ever crossed the lines that Bea and Ben have!! 

A couple of people thought "The Sisters" would make a really great film. Although casting so many similar looking people could be a challenge! 

We would like to ask Claire:
  • Did you ever think of letting Ben kill Bea? What might that have meant for Abi and Ben?
  • How intentional do you think Abi's car crash at the beginning was? 
  • Have you ever been obsessed with someone or had trouble with an obsessive relationship? 


For an interview with Claire you can click here:

And here are some extras if you fancy using "The Sisters" as your book group read!

Where to hold your book group for title:
  • A terraced Georgian property
  • House party

What could you serve?
  • To eat: Crisps, homemade lasagne, bread
  • To drink: Glass of fizz or Chablis, Spring Water

What props could you use to start a conversation about title?
  • A bouquet of daisies or lilies 
  • A Playlist including the Happy Mondays, Waterloo sunset and Psych Killer by Talking Heads
  • Daisy by Marc Jacobs (perfume)
  • Handwritten letters
  • A selection of costume jewellery including necklaces and things with birthstones
  • A map of Bath
  • Spa goodies

Quotes to start a conversation with:
  • “I’ve won. He’s chosen me over her. So why do I not feel as triumphant, as delighted, as I should?” Is it ever possible to choose between a partner and a family member? Is it ever a fair position to put someone in?
  • “In that moment I sense it, the bond between us; formed over a shared grief and the special relationship that can be understood by twins.” How far do you agree with this statement?
  • “…..we’re twins and so we love each other more than other people….” Louise May Alcott
  • What do you think about this quote? What does it add to the story by appearing at the beginning?


If you liked this book and want to read similar novels try:
  • The Woman Next Door by Cass Green reviewed here
  • The Girl on the Train Paula Hawkins
  • The Ice Twins by SK Tremayne
  • The Silent Twin by Caroline Mitchell
  • Sister by Rosamund Lupton
  • One by Sarah Crossan reviewed here

And Claire Douglas' "Local Girl Missing" - reviewed here

Other films:
  • Single White Female
  • Notes on a Scandal (or the book by Zoe Heller) 

For more about Claire Douglas you can follow her on Twitter @Dougieclaire and you can follow me @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk) for more recommendations, reviews and bookish chat. 

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